Gregg County health authorities on Monday reported just two new cases of COVID-19, while neighboring Smith and Harrison counties reported 67 and 17 new cases, respectively.
The new diagnoses pushed Smith County’s total cumulative positive cases of the new coronavirus to 566 on a day when its single-day increase in cases eclipsed three records set this past week.
The Northeast Texas Public Health District said throughout the seven counties it covers, including Gregg County, 115 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported Monday.
Throughout the 25-county East Texas region, at least 217 new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported Monday.
“The public is still highly encouraged to practice personal protective behaviors, such as limiting nonessential travel to public locations as much as possible, wearing masks while going to indoor public locations, washing your hands at least 30 seconds with soap and water, staying home if and when you feel symptoms of illness and disinfecting all surfaces that may be touched on a frequent basis in your home and at work,” NET Health said in a written statement.
Harrison County Judge Chad Sims said 16 of his county’s 17 new cases are in a long-term care facility, though he did not name the facility.
His county has recorded 308 total cases and 30 fatalities. Recoveries now number 227 in Harrison County.
Gregg County Health Authority Dr. Lewis Browne said the county's two new cases Monday came from the general community. Neither of the new patients is hospitalized, Browne said.
He said he isn't sure why Gregg County's increases are remaining relatively low while its neighbor to the west is showing record-setting spikes in new cases lately and its neighbor to the east posted a double-digit gain Monday.
"I really don’t know," Browne said. "I know Smith County really didn’t do everything we did all along. I’m not sure what’s going on, but the bad thing is the way people go back and forth in counties, it’s going to hit us again. I’d like to be able to tell you, but I’m in the dark on that."
Four Texas counties with the highest COVID-19 numbers — Harris, Dallas, Travis and Bexar — asked Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday to allow them to reinstate stay-at-home orders for their communities in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. Local officials general agreed with that idea.
While Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt said he would disagree with the idea of another statewide order, local orders should be an option.
"I’ve always believed in local control, and I think the people elected in their city or county — they were elected by the people that lived here to make decisions," Stoudt said. "Whatever the governor decides, we will do, but, absolutely, yes, they should be able to implement local orders."
Longview Mayor Andy Mack said he expects Abbott to relent on local control.
"I think Gov. Abbott is going to allow the local entities to make decisions for themselves at the appropriate times when levels in their area becomes critical, rather than blanket orders for the entire state," Mack said. "I think that’s the logical way to move forward at this point in time. That one-size-fits-all doesn’t work very good."
Not all communities are alike, he said.
"Certain communities are doing a great job, and other communities aren’t doing as good a job. I don’t see (a blanket stay-at-home order) happening," Mack said. "The only variable to that is, if you have them in some places and not others, people will travel other places and could bring it back. There’s always a flip side to every coin."
Browne said statewide stay-at-home orders aren't needed.
"I think you have to look at the areas that are hard hit, and the areas that are not hard hit," he said. "I really think what there needs to be is perhaps mandatory face masks. All the time outside is not reasonable, if there’s no one near you, but I think if you go in any store, perhaps you need to wear a face mask."
Gregg County Health Administrator A.J. Harris said Monday's two new cases brought the county’s cumulative total to 354. He said 3,123 tests had been administered in the county. Of those, 2,605 have been negative, and results are pending for 164 tests. The county has had 145 recoveries and 14 coronavirus-related deaths.
Back in Smith County, NET Health said the county has 269 active cases of the new coronavirus and has recorded 293 recoveries. Smith County has had four deaths from the virus.
In Titus County, County Judge Brian Lee reported Monday that his county has had 12 new cases since the last reporting date of Friday evening.
The new cases boost his county's cumulative total to 799.
The county has had five deaths from the novel coronavirus.
A two-day free walk-in testing event offered by the state ended Monday in Mount Pleasant. Lee wrote Monday evening in his daily Facebook update that 484 people were tested in the two days, and they should expect results in one week.
In Panola County, County Judge LeeAnn Jones reported five new cases Monday, raising her county's cumulative total to 226. The county has had 25 deaths from the virus.
In Camp County, one new case was reported Monday, and County Judge A.J. Mason said that bumped his county's total to 118. The county has recorded 106 recoveries and has had two deaths from COVID-19.
In Lamar County, 18 new cases were reported Monday, increasing that county's total up to 283, according to the Paris-Lamar County Health District.
The county has had 13 deaths from the virus.
For the 25-county East Texas region, at least 5,050 cases of COVID-19 had been diagnosed by Monday evening, up 217 from 4,833 the day before. The death toll Monday remained at 183, unchanged from Sunday.